Destination: Hawaii

Paul Theroux on ‘Multilayered and Maddening’ Hawaii

Paul Theroux lives in Hawaii but finds aspects of the archipelago’s culture to be mysterious and nearly impenetrable. When he set out to talk with natives about local traditions, he was met with silence and monosyllabic replies, even when he turned up with gifts of honey from his own bees.

I had never in my traveling or writing life come across people so unwilling to share their experiences. Here I was living in a place most people thought of as Happyland, when in fact it was an archipelago with a social structure that was more complex than any I had ever encountered—beyond Asiatic. One conclusion I reached was that in Hawaii, unlike any other place I had written about, people believed that their personal stories were their own, not to be shared, certainly not to be retold by someone else. Virtually everywhere else people were eager to share their stories, and their candor and hospitality had made it possible for me to live my life as a travel writer.

(Via @nerdseyeview)


Travel Movies Go to the Oscars

It’s Oscar time again. The nominees were announced this week and a pair of travel-themed movies are up for the big awards. Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen’s tale of a Hollywood screenwriter (played by Owen Wilson) who visits contemporary Paris and finds himself time-traveling back to the glory days of Hemingway and Picasso. It’s nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Art Direction.

On the other side of the planet, The Descendants stars George Clooney as a Honolulu lawyer who takes his children to see land held in a family trust on Kauai. It received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (for Clooney), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing.

Of the two, I’ve seen only “Midnight in Paris,” which I liked—as a confirmed 1920s Paris nerd I laughed at the inside jokes and enjoyed the scenery. “The Descendants” is on my To Do list. It won Best Picture (Drama) at the Golden Globes last week, and Clooney won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama, too, so it has to be considered a favorite come Oscar night.

Happy Unofficial 75th Birthday, Aloha Shirt

Laura Bly explains why July is a significant month for the aloha shirt, unofficially.

Though Honolulu tailor Ellery Chun trademarked the term in the 1930s, the garb gained official visibility in 1947, when the city’s chamber of commerce amended an earlier resolution allowing open-necked shirts during the summer to specifically include the aloha shirt and its loud, colorful patterns. Celebrities from Elvis Presley to Tom Selleck were enthusiastic ambassadors, and soon every Hawaiian tourist worth his plastic lei was bringing one back as a souvenir of paradise.

One man who helped popularize aloha shirts, Alfred Shaheen, died in 2009.

Interview with Michael Scott Moore: ‘Sweetness and Blood’

Jim Benning talks with the author of a new travel book about the spread of surfing around the globe

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An Ode to Hawaii’s Messy Reality

Over at Nerd’s Eye View, World Hum contributor and Hawaii enthusiast Pam Mandel ponders the typical expectations of visitors to the islands, and how they stack up against the reality she’s gotten to know and love. From the post:

It’s weird to have a long term relationship with a place that isn’t my home. I’m keen to the flaws but part of my heart remains in the islands… [O]n my last trip there, I watched a traveler open the envelope and take out that staged photo, and, then, respond with such disappointment at the real thing. How can a place stack up against such oppressive expectations? Why would Hawaii want to be our Shangri-La, our Atlantis, our Bali Hai? It’s so much work, too much makeup, the lighting and the filters and the fiction to make a place paradise belies what’s really there.

And I’m good with what’s really there.

King of the Road: Five Great Elvis Travel Movies

Eva Holland and Eli Ellison go traveling with The King on his 75th birthday.

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Interview with Bonnie Tsui: ‘American Chinatown’

Bonnie Tsui, American Chinatowns Photo by Matthew Elliott

Jenna Schnuer talks to the author of a new book about American Chinatowns and why "broken Chinese is the mark of being Chinese American"

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Travel Song of the Day: ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Hawaii: ‘Prejudice in Paradise’?

Hawaii: ‘Prejudice in Paradise’? Photo by ConceptJunkie via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by ConceptJunkie via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Southern Poverty Law Center has issued an intelligence report about racial tensions and issues with non-native Hawaiians on the islands. The report goes well beyond the issues we touched on earlier this year after a Saturday Night Live skit about “two grass-skirted, uke-playing, hula-dancing, minimum wage entertainers” who abuse guests at a hotel restaurant in Hawaii. (Via Fark)

Happy 50th Birthday, Hawaii

Happy 50th Birthday, Hawaii Photo by mandolin davis via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by mandolin davis via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The islands are celebrating five decades of statehood today. In the New York Times, Paul Theroux offers a very, well, Theroux-like tribute to his adopted home: “I have lived in Hawaii longer than any other place in my life. I have murmured to myself in Africa, Asia and Britain, ‘I’d hate to die here.’ But I wouldn’t mind dying in Hawaii, which means I like living here.”

The Critics: ‘A Perfect Getaway’

The Critics: ‘A Perfect Getaway’ Publicity still via IGN
Publicity still via IGN

Remember that movie about beautiful people murdering each other on an isolated Hawaiian hiking trail? It’s landed in theaters, and the reviews are piling up.

The Globe and Mail’s Stephen Cole sets the scene: “Newlyweds Cliff and Cydney are excited to be in Hawaii. He’s a screenwriter without a credit. She’s a rich girl without a clue. And they’re looking for a honeymoon adventure to fuel an interesting marriage. To that end, they’re going to backpack around one of Hawaii’s most rugged islands, climbing slippery cliffs and scooting, doused in insect repellent, through heavy jungle.”

Of course, it isn’t long before things go pear-shaped, when another hiking couple turns up dead. Cue a murderous shell game with the remaining three couples—throughout which, according to Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News, director David Twohy “uses the beautifully shot waterfalls and vistas of Hawaii to distract from some glaring plot holes.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt offers Twohy a backhanded compliment, lauding a “genuinely unexpected twist” in an “otherwise gimmicky, formulaic suspense thriller”—and, disappointingly, notes that the movie was mostly shot in Puerto Rico, not Kauai.

Has the ‘Obama Effect’ hit Hawaii?

Has the ‘Obama Effect’ hit Hawaii? Photo by mandolin davis via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by mandolin davis via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Slate’s Moneybox columnist, Daniel Gross, recently headed to Hawaii to see if the islands’ tourism industry was seeing an Obama bump.  The verdict: “This unreimbursed, hazard-filled assignment—sunburn, expensive macadamia nuts—yielded some surprising findings. Like the stimulus package, the Obama Effect, while holding the promise of gains down the road, hasn’t been able to overcome a sour economic climate.”

Travel Movie Watch: ‘A Perfect Getaway’

Beautiful people murdering each other on an isolated Hawaiian hiking trail: What’s not to like?

“A Perfect Getaway” opens August 7.

Aloha Oe

I tried to write a closing post for Hawaii: Holoholo Wale five or six times but got stuck in a weepy, pathetic sort of sentimentalism, the kind of thing no one should have to read. With that epic fail on my hands, I turned to Hawaiian culture for inspiration.

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The White House Luau: President Obama ‘Wants his Hawaii Grinds’

Luau performer in Hawaii Photo by alohateam via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Luau performer in Hawaii. Photo by alohateam via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The first-ever White House Hawaiian-style luau is scheduled to take place tonight, with President Obama hosting a meal created and prepared by Alan Wong.

Good for Obama. He loves his home state of Hawaii, and Hawaii loves him back—though, as seen in this slideshow, sometimes it loves him in funny ways.

In any case, Obama will get some Hawaiian food—the chef’s shopping list includes 84 pounds of Hawaiian macadamia nuts, 130 pounds of salmon and 650 pounds of pork butt—cooked by the proprietor of one of his favorite restaurants. And Hawaii hopes it will get what it desperately needs: a boost for tourism.